Encierro Italiano (Running of the Italians)

Rising Up!I am walking along the streets of Old Town Prague and stuffing strawberries into my mouth at an alarming pace. I am mentally jotting down observations as I go: cobalt blue sky, strawberries everywhere (in mouth, hand, shirt and somehow ears), women dressed as though a house fire didn’t allow them to complete their outfits. So far, it looks as though my hypothesis is correct.

My interest has been sparked since noting recent changes. My interest in celebrity suicides has ebbed, actual sunlight comes through my bedroom window before 1 p.m. and the cat has started shedding her fur in such volume that I can finally build my evil cat navy of the Vltava. With these signs, I’ve taken to the streets for further investigation.

As I continue my walk the empirical data builds. People aren’t staring at the ground as they walk, there is even the occasional smile and most of the bums have moved from red boxed wine to white boxed wine. A wolf spider on a wall is a good sign.

Everything points to spring; still, I haven’t seen the clincher, and I suppose that is why I’m roaming the streets. From behind me, around a corner, comes a low rumble that breaks the air like thunder in the distance. I pause and prepare; this might be it.

I ran with the bulls in Pamplona once. A friend talked me into it during a sangria-induced euphoria in Irun. I finally agreed and so the following morning I was standing on a street in Pamplona with a terrible headache. Surrounded by white and red clad Spaniards, I began scanning the building fronts for a deep doorway in which to dive. They set off the second of two rockets to signal the release of the bulls and from around that corner in Pamplona came a rumble caused by terrified people and massive, pissed off, castrated animals.

The rumble is something I will never forget and this moment, on this Old Town street, is the only other time I have experienced a similar phenomenon.

As the rumble grows I react in similar fashion to that morning in Pamplona, scanning the buildings for a covey or doorway. I find one, but my plan is foiled by three old women who clearly have more experience in these matters. I see another and make for it along with an old man who is cursing and stealing my strawberries at the same time. However, before we can escape into the refuge, the street is filled with fur collars and fake Christian Dior sunglasses large enough to dim a headlight. There is wild gesticulation of hands and arms, as though we’ve entered a sign language cursing competition. The once ominous rumble now becomes a cacophony of Italian names and words ending in exaggerated vowels.

I have been overtaken by a group of Italian teenagers. In case you were wondering, this is the clincher.

Much like my bull run in Pamplona, adrenalin has blacked out most of the details of my run with the Italians. But when they are past, I am left cowering next to a mailbox with the old man (Miloš), and sketchy visions of Jeggings and clove cigarettes that are sure to revisit me in dreams.

Miloš and I compose ourselves and step away from a mailbox. A girl wearing a skirt that could qualify as a belt walks by and Miloš and I regard each other with grins. My research is complete.

Spring has sprung in Prague.

  1. #1 by Andy on March 22, 2012 - 8:23 pm

    Ugh…the location of my former office made this annual occurrence truly painful. Between the narrow streets and spiky hair, I was always afraid I’d lose an eye.

    Personally, spring officially “sprung” when the office girls of downtown Prague took advantage of their lunch breaks to sunbathe topless for 30 minutes. Without a doubt, it’s still the best way to eat a sandwich.

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on March 22, 2012 - 8:58 pm

      And you moved? By the way, And, speaking of places you used to live. I was in Vetrnik teaching at a Gymnasium up the street. I stopped into our old Gambrinus place for a quick one. What memories it brought back!

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